Historical and comparative linguists use a lot of relationship terms to describe how languages are connected. Languages are said to exist in “families,” to be “related to” one another. Languages that can be shown to be descended from older ones are called “daughter languages.” (English is a daughter language of an old form of Germanic, for example.)
Sometimes languages are related to the their nearest neighbors, the way that Spanish, Italian, and Portugese are very closely related. However, as you might guess, this isn’t always the case. The way languages descend from and relate to each other can tell us a lot about the history of their speakers and how they migrated, settled, and interacted with one another.
So here is today’s pop quiz! For each of these languages, which of the multiple choices is its nearest language “sibling”?
a) Dutch, b) Zulu, c) French, d) Swahili
a) Norwegian, b) Swedish, c) Estonian, d) Russian
a) Tamil, b) Sanskrit, c) Telugu, d) Pashto
a) Berber, b) Farsi, c) Turkish, d) Hebrew
a) German, b) Polish, c) Greek, d) Romanian
a) Welsh, b) English, c) French, d) Icelandic
a) Burmese, b) Chinese, c) Vietnamese, d) Sanskrit
a) Arabic, b) Farsi, c) Armenian, d) Azerbaijani
a) Egyptian, b) Arabic, c) Xhosa, d) Somali
a) Bulgarian, b) Albanian, c) Italian, d) Serbian
Extra credit: Basque is a language spoken by the Basque people who inhabit a semi-autonomous region in the Pyrenees, including parts of Spain and southwestern France. What language is Basque most closely related to?
1. a) Dutch, 2. c) Estonian, 3. b) Sanskrit, 4. d) Hebrew, 5. b) Polish, 6. a) Welsh, 7. a) Burmese, 8. d) Azerbaijani, 9. c) Xhosa, 10. c) Italian
Extra credit: Trick question! Basque is a language isolate. Linguists have never been able to prove a relationship between Basque and any other language, anywhere in the world; no one has any idea where it came from or how it got there. Isn’t that fascinating?? 🙂
I’ve posted this map with a pop quiz before, but it is so full of information and it is just so interesting that I thought it was worthwhile to post again. This comes from wikipedia; if you click on the image, it will open a full-size map with clickable links to all the language families. Enjoy!